"All children behave as well as they are treated." - Anonymous
I love this simple statement. It speaks volumes. A lot of parents struggle with the invisible line, the one that defines how strict to be, how far to guide and how much independence to give to a child.
When do we let them ride their bike down the street alone? How old should they be to stay home alone for 15 minutes, 1 hour, an evening? Can we tell them what friends to have, what clothes to wear, what words to say? It's a tricky, tricky evolvement.
I have friends in all places on the parental spectrum. Friends that are ultra conservative and very protective of their children, to friends that are their children's "friend" and won't establish any boundaries for their kids. I've learned there isn't really a right or wrong way, as long as you are providing a safe and loving environment for your child to grow up. Of course, with some exceptions (because of course my blog IS my opinion, as you all know by now).
I don't care if your kids sleep in your bed. I didn't do it, but that doesn't make me right by any means. And I don't care if your kids have to pick up their toys before they go to bed. Mine never did, but again that doesn't make me right either. The little idiosyncrasies of raising your kids depends greatly on the way you choose to live your own life, by which they are an extension.
What I do believe in is simple: I think all children should be able to live in an environment that is not intimidating. To me, this is a no brainer. Every human being should have a "safe spot", a place where they can go and be unjudged, loved unconditionally (without obligation) and able to express themselves freely.
Unfortunately, I know a lot of kiddos that are not afforded that simple opportunity. Their parents love them conditionally (if you do this, I will give you that). They are bullied, treated as though their parents are superior. The worst? When the parents are "cooler" than their kids, cuss at them, talk to them with sarcasm in their voice and no love in their hearts.
Example? "I don't know why you would wear that, it makes you look like a whore." Really? We are going to tell the 13 year old she looks like a whore? I've got an idea.... DON'T BUY IT for her. Help her understand her value in her body, don't beat her up after the fact and treat her like she's stupid. All that does is damage her self esteem and teach her to fight others with cruel words.
Millions of people are raising their kids in this manner. Guess what? The kid that comes to school and shoots others. Why do you think that happens? They are insecure, bullies themselves... spawned by their parents.
I think it is VITAL that this tide changes. That someone, somewhere sees when this is occurring and tries to help. Sure, it's not an easy task. Maybe you don't raise your kids this way but know that they will have friends raised this way. Then what? Tell them they can't be friends with other damaged kids? It doesn't quite work that way, as we all know.
My thought is if you see a child acting out and you know this is their environment, try to tell them constantly how awesome they are. Even if it's only you giving them this perspective, try to build them up, give them kudos for their accomplishments and don't criticize them. Remember they are getting enough of that at home.
And try to remember the simple quote above: if you expect your children to behave well, treat them well. Respect them as humans and they too will learn to be respectful.